2003.02 Voices from the Darkside Interview with Away
2003.02 Voices from the Darkside Interview with Away
Interview by Steven Willems
Original. Underrated. Experimental. Always re-inventing themselves… all trademarks of VOIVOD, one of the most unique and incredibly influential Metal bands there will probably ever exist. As most of you will probably already known, there has been quite some buzz going on last year around good old VOIVOD: original vocalist Snake returned to the camp and the fact that a certain person with the name of Jason Newsted joined VOIVOD on bass caused quite some uproar as well. More than enough reasons to have a another chat with drummer Away…
Snake, the old Voivod vocalist is already back in the band for quite a while. Are you still in touch with Eric Forrest?
“Yes, I see him once in a while downtown in Montreal. He has got a new band together called E-FORCE and he told me recently that they signed a deal with a French label for three albums so I’m pretty sure you’ll hear about him soon.”
Wasn’t Eric also involved in another band, FAILING FLESH?
“Yeah, I think he did a few sessions with that band recently for an album called “A Beautiful Sickness”. I know that he was invited to contribute on a few albums within the last year.”
In between the time when Eric sang in VOIVOD, Snake had another band band called UNION MADE. Does that band still exist?
“No, they put out an album which was available through mailorder but that was it. The band didn’t exist for a long time.”
When Snake replaced Eric, I never read any specific details like what the reasons were for Eric to leave the band…
“He didn’t leave the band actually. In early 2001, Piggy and I decided to split up the band. There were a few months when there was no more VOIVOD and then we got together in the summer of 2001 with Snake. We thought about Jason to play the bassparts. Jason was very excited about that idea, he told us he would help us out with the production and so we spent about a year and a half writing the songs for the album. At the end of 2002, in September, we went to Jason’s studio and started working on the production. On the 27th of September, Jason told us that he wanted to join the band full-time which was a very pleasant surprise for all of us. We really get along very well, so we went to a studio called The Plant in San Francisco. That’s the main story, the album is coming out real soon actually, in the beginning of March.”
So, when Eric was out of the band, Snake was the first choice?
“Of course. As I just told you, Piggy and I, we had the feeling that VOIVOD as a band had come to a dead end with the line-up that we had with Eric. There was no more spirit in the band and so Snake was the first guy we thought about phoning. Snake was immediately very excited too…”
Last year, you played a couple of shows, for example you opened for MORBID ANGEL, DIO and MOTÖRHEAD. I saw the setlist of the songs that you played and I noticed that they were all old stuff and not a single song from your era with Eric.
“That’s correct, when we will go on tour in a couple of weeks, we won’t play any songs from “Phobos”, “Kronik” or Negatron” either. It’s just natural that Snake is going to sing ‘his’ songs.”
A few years ago when you were on your way to play at the Wacken festival, you had an accident where Eric got rather seriously injured. I noticed on the tour you did with THERION two years ago that he had to walk with a stick. All the things that happened to him, was this also one of the main reasons why VOIVOD as a band sort of got to a dead end?
“Well, the accident really slowed the band down. By the time that Eric came back after a recovery of over a year, we still toured a little. But by the end of 2000, the band was really broken because of lawsuits, the crash in Germany… At that time, those were the main reasons why we thought it was best to split up the band.”
Originally, the new album was supposed to be called “The Multiverse” but in the end you went for a simple “Voivod” instead. Why actually because I really liked the original name?
“Well, “The Multiverse” was more like a working-title. But since the band was sort of revived and also because of the design of the frontcover, we thought it would be better if we would name the album just “Voivod”. There’s no deeper thought behind it, we thought it would just be cool to name it that way.”
Do you see this album as a sort of new beginning, since Snake is back and with Jason now in the band…?
“Yeah, it’s sort of a third beginning (laughs).”
“The Multiverse”, was supposed to be a concept-album which would take the story of Voivod, the nuclear warrior further. There are thirteen songs on the album and I read that you sort of worked out a concept where each song should represent a planet and where a giant spider would sort of wave his web around these thirteen planets…
“It’s something that we discussed with Jason when we were working on the pre-production in his studio but in the end we decided to go for a different vibe for every song instead of a general album-concept. Snake wrote lyrics which are not connected throughout the songs, they have a lot to do with what’s going on on this planet. We had the idea of a concept-album but in the end we thought it would be better to go for something more impulsive and not too programmed.”
So, the saga or the story of Voivod, the nuclear vampire, when is that going to continue?
“The “Phobos” album was the sixth chapter. We put chapter seven into music and we also recorded demos for that with Eric but the album was scrapped because the band split up at that time. Someday, we want to release those demos through the internet and that one is going to be the final chapter of the Voivod story.”
When we come to talk a bit about Jason… who came up with the nickname Jasonic?
“He did actually, I think he already had this name for quite a while. He used it already for a project that he recorded at his studio together with some friends of his from SEPULTURA and THE MELVINS. We all worked on a couple of projects with him in the nineties called TARRAT, that was Piggy, Jason and I.”
What kind of music was that?
“Kind of weird psychedelic Metal, weird Metal (laughs).”
You already wrote a VOIVOD song together with Jason in the past, ‘M-Body’. In which way did he contribute to this new album?
“He had a very big part in the overall sounding of the album. His playing is very old-school, almost stoner Metal like BLACK SABBATH, he brought a very good groove to our music. Piggy wrote most of the music, but everybody was involved in re-arranging the songs.”
Do you think that the cooporation with Jason is going to last for a long time?
“After the touring for this album, we hope to write another album together and we will see after that. But so far, we have the plan for two albums.”
Originally, it was planned that Jason would just be involved in the recording of the new VOIVOD album but now you’re going to tour with him as well. What made him change his decision?
“I think his excitement about the whole thing… While we were working on the album during the pre-production, he really started to like playing again in a band, the four of us rehearsing in the same room, the vibe of the music, the fact that he was free to experiment as much as he wanted too. We have a good spirit in the band now, we are very enthusiastic. I think everything fell into place for him to make that decision.”
Musically, I would describe “Voivod” as a sort of mixture of “The Outer Limits” and “Dimension Hatröss”…
“It makes sense, there are some more epic moments on the album which may remind you on “Dimension Hatröss”, also a few more rocky songs which may perhaps remind you on “The Outer Limits”…“
For example the opener, ‘Gasmask Revival’, reminds me a lot on ‘Fix My Heart’…
“Yeah, you’re right, I think it also sounds a bit like ‘Panorama’ of the “Angelrat” album… all these songs have this sort of rocky vibe that we get once in a while. In the early nineties we decided to write more short songs.”
I think Jason did his job really well, I mean the bassparts sound really good. I was wondering though, now that Jason is in the band, do you think that VOIVOD is going to get the attention that you deserve already for so many years. To my opinion, VOIVOD is without any doubt one of the most underrated bands that ever existed you know…
“Hopefully! Already now, we are getting much more attention than in the past ten years. There is a very good buzz about this album in the Metal community. Everybody who listens to hard music knows the name VOIVOD but they don’t always know the music. Snake has a lot to say about this fucked up planet on this new album. On “War And Pain”, our main concern was nuclear war and high-tech weaponary. It’s still our main concern but well… We always had social messages in our music, we also always had an underground cult-status.”
I saw VOIVOD live quite a few times on the last tours you did and each time the audience wasn’t maybe that big but they were all totally 100% into it.
“Definitely! There aren’t that many VOIVOD fans but the ones we have are really appreciative towards our music and they’re also pretty loud when we play live (laughs).”
Do you think your following will also change, now with Jason in the band, like a younger audience?
“We hope so. I’m pretty sure that everyone who really likes VOIVOD will like this album as this is really 100% VOIVOD. But if we can attract more people, the better because there was a lot of money invested in this project and we all hope that we as a band as well as the people in this project are goinjg to get some profit out of it in the end. So hopefully our popularity will grow. All the bands want more airplay and recognition and all that, we just try not to think about it that much.”
To be totally honest, in the beginning when I heard that Jason joined the band, I was very skeptical. I mean, for me, as a band, I lost all interest in METALLICA already many years ago. I don’t think they did anything interesting within the last couple of years, I think the last albums were just terrible. And then this whole thing that Lars started, this Napster-case, it didn’t do them any good to make me change my mind either…
“Well, you should not forget that Jason was always the hardcore-guy in METALLICA, the one who was singing ‘Seek And Destroy’. He’s a very heavy performer at heart, I‘m really happy that he still has this edge to work hard and that his main goal is to go out there and rock. It was very important for me that this record was not going to sound very mellow, I was very considered about that right from the start. But Jason is a phantastic bassplayer.”
The website, www.voivod.com, is that actually the official VOIVOD website?
“Yes it is, it was maintained by a very good friend for many years for free. At the end of this week, there’s going to be a new www.voivod.com website on-line which will have more to do with Jason’s management and the record label and stuff like that. There’s going to be a newer version of the website in a couple of days. I maintained the first site in 1995 and I soon realized at that time that I didn’t have the time for it. Most of the things we had to do during the last couple of years was mainly a sort of survival because we are not exactly rich artists.”
I’m asking you this because I visit this website pretty often. There’s a quite interesting forum on there as well. There are many discussions going on there about Jason, most of the comments are incredibly childish though to my opnion. Do you read all those comments?
“Yeah, I go there every day. I didn’t have the chance to participate in the discussions on the forum but I go there every day and I feel the vibe every day. I see what the people like and what they don’t like… We spread a three-track promo in advance and it’s really cool to see how people reacted on that. Of course some of the discussions going on about Jason are really childish, nevertheless this website is pretty positive towards us as a band. There are some websites out there that should better be called voivod-haters.com or something (laughts). We were expecting that people were going to react because of Jason’s departure with METALLICA but that’s Jason’s decision and he will have his own reasons for that. He also expected a backlash because of this split. But once more, most of the reactions we get are really positive. Most of the people were really afraid that Jason would bring too much of a commercial aspect to VOIVOD which didn’t make any sense at all. Jason is as much into music as we are. After hearing some of the songs, most of the people are really re-assured.”
Does Jason actually talk very much about the whole situation with METALLICA?
“Not that much, we leave him alone about that. To leave the biggest Heavy Metal band on earth, it must have been a very hard decision for him already so… I don’t want him to think about that all the time, I really want to avoid the subject as much as possible.”
Are you actually personally interested in how the new METALLICA album is going to sound like?
“I wish it will be a good Thrash Metal album like most METALLICA fans. If they come up with an album like “Master Of Puppets” or “Ride The Lightning”, I know that there will be many people who will be pleased. But with the last two albums, they had tons of airplay in the U.S. and probably all over Europe too. So, it’s really difficult to figure out what the next move is going to be for these guys.”
To come to the end about the Jason – METALLICA discussion one more thing: in an interview Jason said ‘Where METALLICA is playing, there won’t be any VOIVOD.’ Nevertheless there’s a festival scheduled in the middle of June in Nijmegen (Netherlands) where both bands will play on the same day…
“Really? I didn’t know that, that sounds good (laughs). I like METALLICA, I’m not at war with them or anything. It would be sad if there would be a political situation where we can’t share a bill with METALLICA. So if we’re on the same bill in Holland, I’m just happy with that.”
When I received the promo-CD of the new album, I thought it was going to be released through Century Media, strange enough it’s a label called Surfdog Records. I never heard of that label before…
“Well, Jason has a label called Chophouse and they work together with Surfdog, the label of his management, which is now actually the VOIVOD management. I think the album is going to be distributed in Europe by Century Media and probably Universal in Canada. We don’t have any problems with Century Media, they’re a great label and we are very loyal to them. They did an excellent job for the “Voivod Lives” album.
You recorded also a videoclip for the song ‘We Carry On’.
“First, we were contacted by people from Industrial Light And Magic who wanted to work with us. There were two people there, Keith McCabe and Jeff Erth who were working on “Terminator 3” and they are big old-school VOIVOD fans. They are specialists in 3-D computer-animation but we went for a sort of live performance instead, not the recording of a show but just us playing. They will add some after-effects though. The video should be out soon, probably next week or so.”
Those two guys, they worked on already rather big movies like “The Phantom Menace”, “Attack Of The Clones”, “Minority Report”, “Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets”…
“Yeah, the company of George Lucas where they work for, they‘re very busy (laughs).”
Talking about Star Wars, what did you think of the last two movies?
“You know what, I haven’t even seen them yet. I’m more into stuff like “Minority Report”, really intriguing stories.”
Have you seen the “Lord Of The Rings” movies?
“Yeah (laughs), that one I didn’t want to miss (laughs). The latest “Lord Of The Rings” film is about the most spectacular movie I’ve seen so far. I totally loved the darkness of the movies, the imagenaries are very dark. Tolkien was very influential in the Voivod story that I wrote when I was a kid. Morgoth comes from Mordor. When I was reading his novels, I was something like twelve or thirteen years old and I really loved the dark feeling of those books. It really influenced my design also. I think the movies really caught the spirit of the book. It’s a bit like “Blade Runner”, the vibe of that movie also really represented the vibe of the book.”
Talking about Morgoth, one of the first VOIVOD demos was called “Morgoth Invasion”. Over the years you had some plans to re-release these old demos.
“Piggy is working on that, he’s mixing that right now. He’s using Pro Tools, it’s more like re-mastering the old demos. People should keep an eye on www.voivod.com and eventually it will pop-up there. We are working on a couple of DVD’s also. Those DVD’s will contain old footage, videos we recorded during tours, we have tons of material in our archives. We’ll probably sell all those releases first through the internet and we’ll see what happens with that afterwards.”
You told me once that you were also working on a book which would contain your drawings and the lyrics to all the VOIVOD songs. What’s the status of that?
“What happened is that five to six years ago, we had almost no financial support at all. Now we have but we’re still involved in a few lawsuits regarding the accident in Germany from a couple of years ago. All these plans slowly took shape but there was just no money to work it out. Recently Jason told me that he would love to help me to release the book so that will come out sooner or later. The book is totally self-produced, I spent many hours on that in front of my computer. We were hoping to get it ready for this tour but it won’t. Sometimes, concerning all those things, it would be really much more easy if we were a huge band (laughs).”
Talking about those DVD’s, you think you’re going to include all your old videoclips on there as well? Because they’re pretty hard to find these days…
“Yes, we’re working on that. The main problem was to find a good BETA-copy of all our videos. They’re indeed very hard to find, I even have a problem to find them myself. I already contacted MTV and these kind of stations to get the best possible copy they have. Besides all that, Metal Blade in Europe is also going to re-release “War And Pain” pretty soon as a 2-CD in a remastered version with a lot of bonus-material.”
A while ago, the fans also had to vote for their favorite VOIVOD song for a new ‘Best Of’ album. Is that album going to be released soon?
“Yeah, well, that’s another thing. Somebody was trying to put this thing together but it fell through in the end. We were involved in so many different labels throughout our career and it’s so difficult for all these labels to license the songs. The back-catalogue of VOIVOD is kind of a mess at this point. I don’t know if there’s going to be a new ‘best of’ album, but there’s definitely going to be a new live album with the new line-up. So that’s going to be our new ‘best of’ album (laughs).”
Do you also know anything more about the ‘Tribute to Voivod’ album and the Probot project, this album that Dave Grohl of FOO FIGHERS was working on and where Snake also contributed a song to? Last time I saw you, you told me that both these projects were already in the works…
“It’s actually the same status as the ‘best of’ album. Relapse showed interest to put out a tribute to Voivod album, bands like MR BUNGLE and PRIMUS had already shown interest but that’s another thing that will probably never see the light of day. We’re not really involved in that, we’re not controlling or producing those albums so… People contact us, they ask our permission for something, we say yes and we offer them our help but there’s nothing really done regarding those projects. Concerning PROBOT, I don’t know anything either. I also supplied some artwork for that, apparently the songs were almost mixed, it’s all really up to Dave Grohl. I hope it sees the light of day in the future because I heard that the music is phantastic.”
To talk about tourplans, I heard that you’re first going to tour through America?
“That’s correct, we’re going to tour through the U.S. together with SEPULTURA in April and May and we come over to Europe in June. We also hope to go to Japan this year. Besides all that, we’re also hoping to start the writing of a new album.”
Over here in Europe, do you think that VOIVOD will do a headline-tour because the last tours you did over here where always as a support-act and personally I’d love to see a good and long VOIVOD show again.
“We will play some festivals in Europe but I can’t say which ones yet. I don’t know if there will be any club-shows, maybe in-between the festivals. I hope so because that would be really great.”
Interview: Steven Willems